Historical Markers
Jacob Nelson Historical Marker
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Jacob Nelson

Hershey/Gettysburg/Dutch Country Region


Marker Location:
7417 Lincoln Highway

Dedication Date:
August 3, 2001

Behind the Marker

In the towns and villages of Pennsylvania in the 1930s and 1940s, you could find thousands of baseball stories that began like the story of major league star Nellie Fox. But only two of those tales wound up on plaques in Cooperstown. One belonged to Stan Musial, the other to Nellie Fox.
Nellie Fox is airborne throwing a runner out.
An airborne Nellie Fox throws a runner out

It certainly wasn't his size that got him there. Fox was only 5-foot-9-inches tall, 160 pounds. Perhaps Yankee manager Casey Stengel best boiled down the Fox essence: "He ain't so big, but he's all fire. He causes me more grief than any other player on the White Sox. He's in my hair all the time."

Born on Christmas Day in 1927, Jacob Nelson Fox grew up in the farm community of St. Thomas, in the fertile heart of the Cumberland Valley just west of Chambersburg. Ironically, as much as we like to think of baseball and its green fields as a rural throwback to simpler times, the game's roots actually first took hold in the nation's industrial cities. Like the Scotch-Irish Protestants and German farmers who settled the Cumberland Valley in search of good farmland and healthy streams to power their mills, baseball migrated here from elsewhere. And it took hold. By the twentieth century, even the smallest towns had fields - usually an all-dirt infield with a grass outfield that wasn't always level - and in the days before markerLittle League, community teams for kids to play on.
Color photo of Fox with chaw
Nellie Fox with chaw

From the start, Fox seemed destined to climb the baseball ladder. His father, a carpenter, both played on and managed St. Thomas's town team, and by the time he was twelve years old, Fox had risen from team batboy to be its second baseman, earning $5 a game. The team was so embraced by the community that most of the neighboring farmers shut down on Saturday afternoon so that they and could travel to St. Thomas and watch the team play.

When Fox was just sixteen, the Philadelphia Athletics signed him out of a wartime training camp. He made it up briefly to the A's in 1947 and 1948 before sticking in 1949. Despite Fox's hard driving play, manager markerConnie Mack gave up on him, trading Fox to the White Sox before the 1950 season. It turned out to be one of the worst trades Mack ever made.

Fox quickly evolved into the premier second baseman in the American League and, with that ever-present chaw of tobacco bulging in his cheek, one of the most recognizable. In fourteen seasons with Chicago, the twelve-time All Star hit .300 or better six times, led the league in hits four times, hardly ever struck out, and patrolled his position as well as anyone, setting major league marks for most seasons leading the league in chances and putouts.

Fox's greatest contribution to the team might well have been his grit. "I never saw anyone who wanted to play more than Fox did," said former White Sox manager Paul Richards. "In spring training, you had to run him off the field to get him to rest. I mean literally run him off the field." Which was next to impossible. Fox established the standard for consecutive games played at second base - 798. And between 1953 and 1960, he was on the lineup card 1,072 out of a possible 1,073 contests.

His spirit, dubbed "go-go" by Chicago sportswriters - helped propel the White Sox to the top of the American League in 1959. And it was, indeed, spirit that seemed to carry Chicago to the World Series that year. The Sox hit a paltry .250 as a team, and only the perennial doormat Washington Senators scored fewer runs. But led by Fox's contagious hustle, they scrappily manufactured the runs that counted on their way to 94 victories. Fox's intensity and leadership were duly rewarded when he was named the league's Most Valuable Player - even though he didn't lead the league in a single offensive statistic except at-bats.

Fox, who always returned to St. Thomas in the off-season, came home for good when his playing days were over. For several seasons, he remained in uniform as a coach with the Senators and, later, the Texas Rangers. After just missing in several close elections, Fox was finally voted into the Hall of Fame in 1997, twenty-two years after his death from cancer.
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